Halloween music is pretty standard, made up of spooky sounds, witches’ cackles and the occasional “Monster Mash.” But Halloween, for BULLETT, means a chance to listen to all of our favorite goths. From Siouxsie Sioux and Poison Ivy, to Nine Inch Nails and Glenn Danzig, Halloween jams don’t have to be lame—in fact, some of the best post-punk, new wave and ’80s pop are the perfect soundtrack for an alternative Halloween.
Featuring everyone from Sonic Youth to The Birthday Party, BULLETT has assembled a list of the 10 best alt-horror songs for a very Gothic Halloween—or if you’re a Ministry fan, for every day of the week. Now, you don’t have to listen to “Thriller” on repeat.
Check out our favorite Halloween bangers, below.
1. “Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight” by The Misfits
The Misfits are basically a Halloween band—the Halloween band, actually—so choosing only one track for this list, was pretty impossible. Of course, there’s holiday classics like “Night Of The Living Dead,” “Skulls” and “The Haunting,” as well as the entire 1999 album, Famous Monsters, but “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?” is one of The Misfits’ creepiest tracks. From the band’s 1982 album, Walk Among Us, “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?” is an anti-bullying soundtrack for serial killers and sociopaths—the perfect hype track for seeking revenge.
2. “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” by The Cramps
Like The Misfits, The Cramps were made for Halloween. “I Was A Teenage Werewolf,” from the band’s 1980 debut album, Songs The Lord Taught Us, is psychobilly at its finest. An ode to teenage angst, the track should’ve been made into an ’80s cult movie—I could totally see Corey Feldman as the lead.
3. “Spellbound” by Siouxsie and the Banshees
Original goth Siouxsie Sioux is the queen of Halloween. Her 1981 single, “Spellbound,” is a hypnotizing mix of post-punk and ’80s pop, with Siouxsie’s lusty voice glaring over moody guitars.
4. “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads
Inspired by Hannibal Lector, Alice Cooper and Randy Newman, the Talking Heads’ debut single, “Psycho Killer,” is a sinister glimpse into the mind of a murderer. Released in 1977, the track juxtaposes upbeat guitars with David Byrne’s haunting lyrics to create a catchy serial killer manifesto, part new wave, part Patrick Bateman.
5. “Halloween” by Sonic Youth
The New York art punks go full creep on “Halloween.” From 1985’s Bad Moon Rising, the track fuses Kim Gordon’s raspy spoken word with Thurston Moore’s distorted guitars, creating the musical equivalent of sheer terror.
6. “The Killing Moon” by Echo & The Bunnymen
Even though it was popularized by the 2001 sci-fi horror, Donnie Darko, “The Killing Moon” is pure ’80s goth-pop. The lead single from Echo & The Bunnymen’s 1984 album, Ocean Rain, lead singer Ian McCulloch said he wrote the lyrics in a dream. Combining a backwards rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” with McCulloch’s menacing vocals, “The Killing Moon” is a sinister ode to love and obsession.
7. “Release The Bats” by The Birthday Party
Before he became The Prince of Darkness, Nick Cave was a vampy teenager in a high school band called The Birthday Party. Their 1981 single, “Release The Bats” is a Gothic symphony that satirizes the subculture. Cave screeches about rats, bats, bites and vamps atop gritty guitars, in a track that defines goth rock.
8. “Pet Sematary” by The Ramones
Stephen King’s 1989 blockbuster, Pet Sematary, is the only horror movie that ever really scared me. Written for the film, The Ramones’ “Pet Sematary,” from the band’s 1989 album, Brain Drain, is an underrated pop masterpiece. The Dee Dee-penned hit brings together classic Ramones with ’80s pop production—think “I Wanna Be Sedated” meets INXS. The only thing better than the track itself is its music video, filmed in Sleepy Hollow with cameos from Blondie and a bunch of ghosts.
9. “Dead Souls” by Nine Inch Nails
A cover of the Joy Division B-Side, Trent Reznor recorded “Dead Souls” for the 1994 Halloween thriller, The Crow. The original track is haunting and ominous, with Ian Curtis’ howling voice spitting every word. The Nine Inch Nails version is slower, with a ’90s twist, and Reznor’s breathy voice gives Curtis’ lyrics even more pain.
10. “Every Day Is Halloween” by Ministry
Ministry’s 1984 single, “Every Day Is Halloween,” is the original weirdo anthem. The industrial pop banger combines lead singer Al Jourgensen’s moody vocals with pounding drums and witchy synths à la Suicide and Depeche Mode.
Honorable Mention: “I Put A Spell On You” by Marilyn Manson
What’s an alt-Halloween countdown without the Antichrist Superstar? Marilyn Manson’s 1995 cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You,” is a metal must-have for any Halloweekend.